Monuments Men: Saving Art and Restoring History

The Museum hosts its third GalleryTalk for 2017 on Sunday, April 23rd from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Civil War Gallery of the Museum in the historic train depot in downtown Culpeper.  The public is invited to attend the Monuments Men: Saving Art and Restoring History Gallery Talk; refreshments will be served.  The event is free; seating is limited so RSVPs are appreciated – please call 540-829-1749 for reservations and information.

Fran Cecere, a writer affiliated with Windmore Foundation for the Arts, will speak about artist Dorothy Skelton’s work immediately after WWII as part of the Monuments Men project. Dorothy Simmons Geneva Skelton was a well-known artist in Culpeper who taught art to adults and children and arranged art shows. She was one of the founders of the Culpeper Art Group, which eventually became Windmore Foundation for the Arts.

In 1948 and ’49 Skelton was a civilian member of the Monuments, Museums, and Fine Arts (MMFA) project, also known as the Monuments Men. Millions of pieces of art were confiscated by the Germans during World War II; many pieces were found at the end of the war by the Allied troops and art historians and professionals. Dorothy Skelton and many others worked to restore the art, repair if necessary, and then locate the original owners with the intent to return the pieces to them. Skelton’s time with the project is documented in government papers.

Skelton was herself a prolific artist, producing beautiful work in many different media. When she died in 1999, her family donated her art to Windmore. Much of this artwork was sold to establish a scholarship fund. Later, another artist’s family donated the art of Culpeper artist Millie Lane to also support awards. Windmore established scholarships in both the artists’ names: “Windmore Foundation for the Arts Scholarship in Honor of Artists Dorothy Skelton and Millie Lane.” To date, over 25 graduating high school students have benefited from these scholarship funds. Each year one or two students receive $1000. The requirement is that they major in the arts, such as music, dance, theater, film, creative writing, visual arts, or other fine arts while in college. They also must be residents of one of the following counties of Virginia: Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange or Rappahannock.

Although Skelton never discussed her time with the Monuments Men project, she did write about her experiences in her book about the Simmons Family. She also created a large painting in which she depicted her version of the Monuments Men opening crated art. This beautiful oil on canvas is currently on loan from Windmore and hanging in The Museum.

Guest lecturer Fran Cecere is a Nurse-Consultant and Advocate for Oncology patients. After moving from New York to Virginia in 2003, she worked at Fauquier Hospital and in an Oncology practice in Fredericksburg. She continues to serve on the Fauquier Health Ethics Committee. She volunteers for Hospice of the Piedmont, and is the past board president, and executive director, of Windmore Foundation for the Arts. She also devotes much of her time to Windmore: particularly for the StageWorks Theater program, and the Pen-to-Paper writers program. She has co-edited two anthologies and is a contributing author for the Windmore books, Images in Ink, and Words Across Time.

Cecere learned about Dorothy Skelton’s participation in the Monuments Men Project when she was the volunteer executive director for Windmore. She was contacted by a representative from Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, who wanted to confirm Skelton’s work with the Monuments, Museums, and Fine Arts project. Cecere spent many hours researching this information and was able to find documentation confirming Ms. Skelton’s involvement in the endeavor.  Ms. Cecere will discuss Skelton’s work on the project.

Windmore Foundation for the Arts is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year. It is a not-for-profit organization with the mission “to promote the visual, literary, and performing arts through awareness, participation, and education.” Windmore accomplishes this goal through its artistic programs. StageWorks Theater program has productions for children and adults.  Pen-to-Paper writers’ group meets once monthly and is open to adults and teens of all abilities.  Crossroads Youth Orchestra offers music education to youth ages 12 to 25. Art classes are open to all ages and abilities.

Windmore scholarship applications are offered every year to graduating high school seniors who will be majoring in the arts in college. Windmore will be holding a Peter Pan Summer Musical Camp for ages 7 to 17 at Verdun Adventure Bound this summer from June 1 – June 17. Two performances will be presented on Saturday, June 17 at 1 pm and 5 p.m. For more information about Windmore, visit www.windmorefoundation.org or call 540-547-4333.